By John Lee.

Iraq has been ranked 172nd out of 190 countries in the World Bank‘s recent Doing Business 2020 report, down from 171st place the previous year.

Top of the list were New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong, with last place going to Somalia, just behind Eritrea and Venezuela. Iran ranked 127th, with Libya 186th.

Doing Business 2020 is the 17th in a series of annual studies investigating the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it. It provides quantitative indicators covering 12 areas of the business environment in 190 economies.

The goal of the Doing Business series is to provide objective data for use by governments in designing sound business regulatory policies and to encourage research on the important dimensions of the regulatory environment for firms.

More details on the full report here.

65-page profile of Iraq here.

(Source: World Bank)

IBBC hosts largest ever delegation of Iraqi business people at London Business Forum

In a wide-ranging business event over 230 Iraqi business-people and 70 British gathered to meet and discuss Business relations, trade, investment and engagement with the UK’s Business community.

Delegates from all regions of Iraq through the chambers of commerce gathered to hear from representatives of trade associations, IBBC members, chambers of commerce and investors.

Baroness Nicholson, President of IBBC, welcomed the new Iraqi Ambassador, H.E. Mr Mohammad Jaafar Al- Sadr, who gave a keynote address at the conference. The Ambassador speech was followed by an address of H.E Mr Karwan Jamal, High Representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Of note were the panel from Iraqi business people, headed by Dr Dara Jalel Al-Khayat, Chairman of Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Kurdistan, and representatives from Babil, Baghdad and Basra Chambers, as well as the chair of the Importers and exporters association in Kurdistan.

From the British side, a panel consisting of Rod Dowler of the Industry Forum, Alan Rides MD of Hounslow Chamber of Commerce, Brigadier James Ellery of Turnkey LLC and Mr Peter Hunt of HWH Associates and Raed Hanna, MD of MFL Finance, all spoke positively of their experiences in Iraq, but tempered with advice on improvements to the Iraqi experience. Finally, Jessica Hao of Crossboundary associates spoke of opportunities to invest in start-ups and SMEs in Iraq with support of USAID.

Key messages included the enthusiasm with which the Iraqis are keen for British Investment into numerous sectors in Iraq, especially Agriculture, Petro Chemicals, Food Processing, Housing and Consumer goods.

The idea of joint ventures with British know how and expertise and Iraqi partners are also suggested as ways to overcome perceptions of risk in the country. However, many delegates all supported the notion that despite the present legitimate protests in many parts of the country overall peace and stability has returned to Iraq following the defeat of DAESH and that the business environment is getting more favourable. Nevertheless, much needs to be done to free up and boost the private sector, an essential step to meet the demands for real jobs and futures of the ever-increasing young Iraqi population.

Following the formal event, the delegates networked extensively with each other and the British contacts in the room.

The group move onto Northampton University, Ardley high tech waste centre, and High-tech leather innovation centre in Northampton University before returning to Iraq.

For more information on the contacts for exports and import opportunities, please contact London@webuildiraq.org

(Source: IBBC)

Advertising Feature

Rabee Securities Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) market report (week ending: 14th November 2019).

Please click here to download a table of listed companies and their associated ticker codes.

The RSISX index ended the week at IQD646 (+0.2%) / $687 (+0.2%) (weekly change) (-2.0% and -3.2% YTD change, respectively). The number of week traded shares was 11.3 bn and the weekly trading volume was IQD 11.8 bn ($9.7 mn).

ISX Company Announcements

  • Ishtar Hotel (HISH) will hold an AGM on Dec. 4, 2019 to discuss and approve 2017 annual financial statements. The company has been suspended from trading since Aug. 20, 2019 due to not disclosing its 2018 annual financial statements.
  • ISX will suspend trading of Bain Al-Nahrain Investment (VMES) starting Nov. 28, 2019 due to the AGM that will be held on Dec. 3, 2019 to discuss and approve 2018 annual financial statements.
  • Ameen Al-Iraq Islamic Bank / Mouta for Remittance (MTMO) held an AGM on Nov. 13, 2019 to discuss and approve 2018 annual financial statements. The company has been suspended from trading since Jan. 21, 2018 until it receives its operation license by the CBI.
  • ISX suspended trading of Iraqi for Seed Production (AISP) starting Nov. 12, 2019 due to not disclosing its 2019 financial statements.

Allurentis, UK publishers of The New Iraq series, are now in production of Iraq – Discovering Business 2020.

The publication will be launched at the end of this year and circulated to companies and individuals looking to trade and invest in Iraq throughout 2020.

There are opportunities for organisations from all sectors to promote their services to a global audience through editorial features and advertising.

Iraq Business News is delighted to be partnering Allurentis on this project.

For further details, please contact Laura Curtis, Managing Director of Allurentis at laura.curtis@allurentis.com.

By John Lee.

The government-sponsored Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) has reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Sulaimaniyah Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI) in a bid to promote bilateral trade.

Taiwan News says the document was signed by SCCI President Sirwan Mohammed Mahmood and TAITRA Executive Vice President Leonor F. M. Lin (林芳苗), during the visit of a trade mission from Iraq to Taiwan for the procurement of machine tools, ICT products, food packaging machinery, and more.

According to TAITRA, automobile components, machinery, and construction materials are the three major exports from Taiwan to Iraq.

Sulaymaniyah, the second largest city in Kurdistan Region, has ramped up efforts to develop industry and commerce. Established in 1967, SCCI has 30,000 company members and is one of the most important trade associations in Iraq, said TAITRA.

(Source: Taiwan News)

By John Lee.

The National Investment Commission (NIC) has announced the following investment opportunities:

(Source: National Investment Commission)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) took a significant group of members on a trade mission to KRI this week. Paramount was the need to review business opportunities and investment in the region and to learn directly from the Prime Minister Barzani his plans for business and industry.

The group, led by Baroness Nicholson, UK Trade Envoy to Iraq, Christophe Michels MD of IBBC and Eng Rasmi Al Jabri, Deputy Chairman of IBBC included representatives from Jaguar LandRover, Crescent Petroleum, EY, Siemens, Sardar Trading Agency, Garda World, Stirling Education, KPMG, G4S, OilServ Kuwait, and from the DIT Mr Rawand Askary, and James Thornton of UK FCO.

The Prime Minister introduced a number of Ministers for discussion with the group, including KRI Minister of Electricity Mr Kamal Mohammad Saleh discussing project finance and other related matters. The DG of the KRIs MoI joint crisis coordination centre Mr Hoshang Mohamed discussed the clearance of IEDs & mines and the handling of the overall IDP and refugee crisis (that G4S have been heavily engaged with).

In conversation, Mr Barzani stated that ‘the KRI government will bring in reforms to cut down on red tape for the private sector to develop. It will pursue a policy of registering companies through a ‘one window’ online portal which should allow company registrations to be done in the same time it takes in western countries to do so. He also said that the new administration is streamlining overall bureaucracy for private businesses to limit unnecessary Government interference.

The Government is also planning to draft a new bribery law to fight corruption and is looking at reviewing its financial framework to encourage PPPs throughout the economy including education and health. Diversification of the economy is big on the agenda with agriculture, tourism and the manufacturing of goods being a priority. KRI should import less and produce more and eventually find markets outside its borders for its products. Foreign partners for all of this are sought after.’

A permanent revenue sharing agreement with Baghdad is top of the agenda among other things to allow credit export agencies to work directly in the KRIG.’

On Sunday the Planning Minister and Mr Amanj Raheem, Cabinet Secretary, Kurdistan Regional Government spoke, and the Ministers for Construction and Electricity attended the British Consulate Reception taking place at the JLR show room kindly sponsored by Sadar Trading Agencies – thanks to Mr Sardar Al-Bebany Chairman and CEO. Dr Dara Al Khayat, Chairman of KRI federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Erbil, hosted a Monday evening event and on Tuesday the mission visited Crescent Petroleum offices.

The trip continued to Baghdad

(Source: IBBC)

By Ahmed Tabaqchali, CIO of Asia Frontier Capital (AFC) Iraq Fund.

Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Market Review: “Market continues to bottom, while breadth broadens”

Demonstrations resumed during the last week of October, following a two-week lull since they started. While the government has dialled down on its earlier excessive violence in response to these demonstrations, the cumulative causality list increased considerably to over 250 dead and over 10,000 injured.

However, the demonstrations continued to be mostly peaceful and the overall atmosphere has the feel of a carnival, especially in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. There, Iraqis of all walks of life, social classes, sexes and ages, have taken to the square demanding the provision of services, economic prosperity and an end to corruption, and all the while celebrating their newfound sense of Iraqi nationalism that first emerged with the conclusion of the ISIS conflict.

Baghdad’s Tahrir Square by night

(Source: Karrar Al-Taie’s Facebook page)

The sheer number of people taking part in the protests is finally beginning to have an effect on the political class, which was hoping to wait out and buy the demonstrations through a series of ever-increasing handouts. A political consensus is emerging for the need to undertake serious reforms, address corruption and hold early elections after amending the electoral rules that largely allowed the same elite to maintain their oversized influence on successive government formations.

These changes, while unlikely to see the light of day in their entirety, will hasten the break-up of the ethno-sectarian monolithic blocs that were dominant over the past 16 years and which were at the root of Iraq’s past instability. In the process they will break the political logjam that was behind the failures of the past to implement the reconstruction of the country.

The most important consequence of the emerging consensus is either the resignation of the government, or a serious effort at amending the election rules leading to early elections. Whichever permutation emerges, it will lead to a caretaker government, followed by a return of government paralysis and fears of a replay of the events that held back the economy in 2018 and the first half of 2019 as discussed here over the last few months.

However, there are crucial differences between now and then. The first is that an upcoming caretaker government, while unable to act on capital spending, will follow up with implementing the current spending plans of the 2019 expansionary budget. Moreover, it would continue to implement this budget in 2020 throughout the upcoming months of pre-election manoeuvring, elections, and post-election government formation. The most important consequence of this is the continuation and sustainability of the consumer led economic recovery that first manifested itself through the sharp increase of Iraq’s imports, as discussed here last month, to satisfy growing consumer demands.

The freeze of capital spending is a negative factor, suspending its intended effect of turning an upcoming three to four year consumer-led economic recovery into a multiyear economic boom. However, mitigating this negative is the fact that a future capital spending freeze is undistinguishable from the current lack of such spending. The Ministry of Finance’s (MoF) latest data as of August reveal a total non-oil capital spending of about USD 1.3 bln from a budgeted USD 11.25 bln for the whole year.

The same data shows a continued build-up of the budget surplus of about USD 7.2 bln for 2019 by end of August, or a cumulative 32-month surplus of USD 30.3 bln. This would provide the wherewithal for an upcoming government to embark on a significant capital spending plan that it can use to solidify its position as the government that would meet the people’s expectations. An un-intended consequence of the current government’s paralysis is the elimination of the temptation to spend its way out of the crises by ever increasing handouts at the expense of capital spending.

The market seems to look to the future through these developments, as it spent most of the month, as measured by the Rabee Securities RSISX USD Index (RSISUSD), fluctuating +/− 1% within the close of the prior month, to end October at +1.9%, and down −2.3% for the year. Encouragingly, the market’s dynamics followed through with the improvement discussed here over the last few months as its breadth continued to broaden beyond the banks, which came to the forefront this year, or that of the high-quality leadership of Pepsi bottler Baghdad Soft Drinks (IBSD) and mobile operator AsiaCell (TASC) that outperformed in 2018. This broadening is seen in many sectors that are leveraged to a consumer recovery and/or to an expansionary government budget.

A group that stands to benefit from an expansionary budget, are the healthcare providers, which depend on government health service expenditures to drive their earnings growth. The government curtailed all such outlays following the twin crises of the ISIS conflict and the collapse in oil prices in 2014, with devasting consequences for the companies that depend on such spending. The market began to focus on the sector in the last few months with expectations that such, hoped for, spending would be manifested in the group’s future earnings – even though the earnings results for most of the companies show no evidence of such earnings recovery as of yet. It’s worth noting that  healthcare expenditures would be part of the provision of goods and services in the current budget section, and not from capital investments, and as such should not be affected by a future government paralysis. This dynamic can be seen in the stock price performance of Al-Mansour Pharmaceuticals Industries (IMAP) and AL- Kindi of Veterinary Vaccines Drugs (IKLV), which were up +43.8% and +28.8% respectively year to date, with most of the performance taking place in the last few months during which the overall market began to stabilize, as can be seen from the chart below:

Year to date indexed performance: Al-Mansour Pharmaceuticals Industries

– IMAP (green), AL- Kindi of Veterinary Vaccines Drugs- IKLV (orange)

(Source: Bloomberg, data as end of 31/10/2019)

Whilst the market is in the early process of forming a base it is worthwhile to point out its continued divergence from its past close relationship with oil revenues (a proxy for the forces driving the economy). This divergence is still at the widest it has been for the last few years, and it is showing tentative signs of narrowing this divergence (see below).

(Sources: Iraq’s Ministry of Oil, Rabee Securities, Asia Frontier Capital)

(Note: Oil revenues as of Sep, AFC estimates for Oct)

 

Extra reading:

Coverage of the nature and breadth of the demonstrations in Tahir Square, has been provided by a number of Iraqi photographers on their Facebook pages.

Some of these photographers are:

Ziyad Matti, Mohammed Aladdin, and Karrar Al Taiee

The following links, a photo album, a video, and an article are provided below:

 

Please click here to download Ahmed Tabaqchali’s full report in pdf format.

Mr Tabaqchali (@AMTabaqchali) is the CIO of the AFC Iraq Fund, and is an experienced capital markets professional with over 25 years’ experience in US and MENA markets. He is a non-resident Fellow at the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUIS), and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at AUIS. He is a board member of the Credit Bank of Iraq.

His comments, opinions and analyses are personal views and are intended to be for informational purposes and general interest only and should not be construed as individual investment advice or a recommendation or solicitation to buy, sell or hold any fund or security or to adopt any investment strategy. It does not constitute legal or tax or investment advice. The information provided in this material is compiled from sources that are believed to be reliable, but no guarantee is made of its correctness, is rendered as at publication date and may change without notice and it is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding Iraq, the region, market or investment.

Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) fields significant Baghdad meetings with Dr Barham Salih, President of Iraq, and Ambassadors, to strengthen private sector business in Iraq.

IBBC President Baroness Nicholson and MD Christophe Michels, Rasmi Al Jabri, IBBC Deputy Chairman and Mohanad Al Khatab Baghdad Office Manager, met this week with the President Dr Barham Salih and a range of Government of Iraq Ministers and business leaders.

The team updated the President on the work of IBBC and it’s members in Iraq. There followed wide ranging discussions on current affairs in Iraq and internationally. The President was ‘delighted to see IBBC in Baghdad in these challenging times and complimented the organisation for its ongoing and very effective work. He said that he was willing to support IBBC fully whenever required.’

Additional meetings included the Chief of Justice Faik Zidan, to follow up on his recent visit to London when IBBC hosted him, and to discuss the legal framework in Iraq and current affairs.

Dr Sami Al Araji, Head of the National Investment Commission (NIC) also agreed to plan future regular joint activities in Baghdad as the situation returns to normal.

Further meetings included Civil Society activist Mrs Hana to understand the many reasons for the protests and the latest news from Tahir Square and around the country. IBBC expressed sympathy for the movement and discussed ways in which the protest movement could succeed in some of it’s demands without facing a full confrontation with the security forces.

At the US Ambassador Tueller’s residence, the Ambassador, guests and Ambassadors from Canada and Australia and John Tucknot UK Deputy Head of mission, discussed the work of IBBC and how to strengthen collaboration with the US, Canada and Australia, to support the private sector. IBBC is widely recognised as being the most successful trade council in Iraq.

Thanks also to IIB, Al Burhan Group, G4S, Zain and March Group for their support during the visit.

(Source: IBBC)

From Peace to prosperity:

The Conference to find out what’s happening for Iraq business.

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) Autumn Conference in Dubai on December 8th is set against a backdrop of relative peace and security in Iraq, and the prospect of oil revenues surging through the economy is driving a wider range of business opportunities and a prospective 8% increase in GDP.

Peace is enabling the economy to diversify through the revenues that pay for a range of infrastructure projects. So this Autumn we are focusing on a range of sectors set to benefit from a stable Iraq: namely, Water, Transport and Logistics, Energy and Tech.

The recent protests have also spurred on Government reforms and incentives to drive employment, entrepreneurship and service diversity, and increase the volume of opportunity that lies ahead and the prospects for not just business-to-business but also a burgeoning consumer market.

The Iraqi Electricity Minister will likely be speaking about his reforms to open up the market to SME’s, training and new players. Other ministers including those from Construction and Transport are attending.

The recent announcement of a 10year tax-free period for SMEs in Iraq will also stimulate the Tech entrepreneur market and drive the uptake of engineering skills.

At this conference, we will discuss big-picture economics with Professor Frank Gunter (Lehigh University), Ahmed Tabaqchali (AFC Iraq Fund), and Simon Penny (UK Trade & Investment), who will address the economic backdrop in the Middle East, and the context for Iraq in particular.

The World Bank and Wood Plc will cover the water sector, while Rolls Royce, Basra Gateway Terminal (BGT), and Menzies will look at transport and logistics, and Iraq’s Electricity Minister, GE, Siemens and Enka will focus on energy.

Alongside the conference our Tech Forum brings experts on HealthTech and Educational Tech, including speakers from GE, Siemens Healthcare, KPMG, EY, Google and the British Council, among others.

While key opportunities will be outlined, the real opportunity for business is to meet the people directly involved in contracts and supply-chain opportunities. This is the place to do business, to network and to find out what’s happening in the Middle East’s most potentially dynamic market that is Iraq.

For further information and to find the latest updates on speakers – more are expected – please contact  london@webuildiraq.org or visit the website to register for tickets.

https://iraqbritainbusiness.org/event/autumn-conference-at-the-address-hotel-dubai

The year it’s all on the up…